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BUTTER AND FATS

Listed below are fats, oils, butters and Finnish butter substitutes used in Finnish cooking and in the recipes of this site.

Read more about Finnish milk products here.
Read more about Finnish cheeses here.

See also:



Butter

Fresh butter

Butter is a thoroughly natural product made by churning fresh or cultured cream. In most European countries (excluding the United Kingdom and Ireland), butter is usually made with cultured cream, soured with various strains of lactic acid bacteria, giving the butter a fresh, more complex and aromatic flavour than that of the bland-tasting butters made with uncultured cream.

When cooking with butter, only use real, fresh, pure butter without any additives other than salt and lactic starter. Pure, good-quality butter never contains any type of added colours, preservatives or flavourings, whether artificial or "natural", and it does not burn easily when used in frying. Regular butter contains about 80 % milk fat.

In almost all the recipes of this site, butter may be replaced with the Finnish butter and vegetable oil mix Oivariini with 75 % fat (see below). However, using pure butter in baking will always give the best result.

Butter as a sandwich spread may be replaced with the Finnish butter and vegetable oil mix KevytLevi (see below).

See a recipe for homemade butter.

 
Clarified butter

Clarified butter

Also called drawn butter, clarified butter is prepared by slowly melting (usually unsalted) butter.

During melting, the milk solids in the butter sink to the bottom, and the clear liquid on top is poured off and used in cooking. Because the milk solids are removed from the clarified butter, it can be used at a higher cooking temperature than unclarified butter, and it will also keep longer.

Clarified butter can always be replaced with ghee. Originating in India, ghee is a type of clarified butter with a golden yellow to light-brownish colour and a slightly nutty aroma. Like clarified butter, also ghee keeps for a long time.

See the instructions for preparing clarified butter.

 

Cultured butter vs uncultured butter:
Cultured butter should preferably be used in the recipes of this site instead of uncultured butter, as the former is an indispensible ingredient in creating the authentic flavour and texture of various Nordic dishes and delicacies, especially in sweet baked goods and desserts, like pastries, cookies, sweet buns and cakes (and tastes so much better than the latter simply spread on a piece of freshly baked bread or hot toast).
A good brand of cultured Scandinavian butter widely available around the world is the Danish Lurpak.

Salted butter vs unsalted butter:
In many European countries, the butter used in cooking is usually unsalted, but here in Finland salted butter has traditionally been more popular. Besides savoury dishes, salted butter is used here also in many sweet dishes and baked goods, desserts and preparations like buttercreams, mousses, toffees, etc, giving them a more complex flavour than unsalted butter. In the recipes of this site, unsalted butter may always be used instead of salted butter, although slight flavour nuances in certain sweet dishes might then be lost. Some recipes  —  like the Russian Easter dessert paskha  —  specifically require unsalted butter to be used, in which case it cannot be replaced with salted butter without losing and entirely altering the characteristic flavour of the dish.
Finnish regular salted butter contains about 1,4 - 1,5 % salt, and slightly salted butter about 0,8 % salt. There is also extra salted butter, containing about 2,1 - 2,2 % salt. If using salted butter, preferably use slightly salted butter instead of regular or extra salted butters in the recipes of this site, as the latter two are much too salty.


Finnish butter substitutes

During the recent decades, the Finnish people have become more aware of the impact of a well-balanced diet on health, choosing "healthier" and functional food products, also among basic dairy products, like butter. Lower-fat butter spreads in which part of the saturated fat is replaced with unsaturated fat have become more popular.

"Oivariini"

Oivariini vegetable oil-butter spread

In 1979, Valio Ltd, the pioneer in Finnish dairy production, started to produce its first butter and vegetable oil mix Oivariini (originally called Voimariini). It is made by mixing butter with non-hydrogenated, unsaturated turnip rape oil, making it easier to spread.

There are different types of Oivariini products available, with varying salt and fat content and ratio of unsaturated fats to saturated fats. The fat content of these products ranges between 60 and 75 %. Today, Oivariini is the most popular butter substitute fat spread sold in Finland.

Nutritional information for Oivariini
with 75 % fat (per 100 g)
Ingredients: butter, turnip rape oil, water, salt, vitamin D.
No preservatives.
Energy, kJ (kcal) 2800 (680)
Protein < 1 g
Carbohydrates < 1 g
Fat, total
   55 % milk fat
   20 % turnip rape oil
75 g
Saturated fat 32 g
Unsaturated fat 34 g
Sodium 0,6 g
Salt 1,5 g
Vitamin A 420 µg
Vitamin D 10 µg
Calcium 12,7 mg

Data source: Valio Ltd

"KevytLevi"

KevytLevi vegetable oil-butter spread

In 1987, Valio Ltd launched another butter and vegetable oil mix, called KevytLevi (originally called Voilevi), with a further reduced fat content. The fat content of various KevytLevi products ranges between 30 and 40 %, of which 14 to 15 % is non-hydrogenated vegetable fat. The remaining 16 to 25 % is milk fat.

In KevytLevi products, butter is mixed with water and non-hydrogenated, unsaturated vegetable fat and oil, making them soft and spreadable. Because of their high water content, the KevytLevi products are not suitable for frying or baking. KevytLevi is the most popular low-fat sandwich spread sold in Finland.

Nutritional information for KeytLevi
with 40 % fat (per 100 g)
Ingredients: buttermilk, butter, water, turnip rape oil, lactose-free milk powder, salt, emulsifiers (E471, E476), stabiliser (E402), acidity regulators (E500, E339), preservative (E202), flavour, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E
Energy, kJ (kcal) 1650 (400)
Protein 4 g
Carbohydrates < 1 g
Fat, total
   25 % milk fat
   15 % turnip rape oil
40 g
Saturated fat 15 g
Unsaturated fat 18 g
Sodium 0,7 g
Salt 1,2 g
Vitamin A 420 µg
Vitamin D 20 µg
Vitamin E 8 mg
Calcium 9,8 mg

Data source: Valio Ltd

See a recipe for homemade additive-free, soft, lower-fat butter-vegetable oil spread.

Liquid "Oivariini"

Liquid Oivariini vegetable oil-butter mixture

Liquid Oivariini is a mixture of butter (12 % butter fat) and non-hydrogenated turnip rape oil (68 %) intended to be used in all cooking (except deep-frying) instead of oils or melted butter, especially in frying and baking. It contains more vegetable oil in proportion to butter than the regular Oivariini (see above), yet maintains butter's delicious flavour.

Nutritional information for liquid Oivariini
with 80 % fat (per 100 g)
Ingredients: turnip rape oil, water, butter, salt, emulsifiers (E471, soy lecithin), lactose-free skimmed milk powder, flavour.
No preservatives.
Energy, kJ (kcal) 3000 (720)
Protein < 1 g
Carbohydrates < 1 g
Fat, total
   12 % milk fat
   68 % turnip rape oil
80 g
Saturated fat 10 g
Unsaturated fat
   38 g monounsaturated fat
   18 g polyunsaturated fat
56 g
Sodium 0,3 g
Salt 0,8 g
Vitamin A 50 µg
Vitamin E 15 mg
Calcium 11 mg

Data source: Valio Ltd

Liquid Oivariini is lactose and preservative-free. 100 millilitres of liquid Oivariini is equivalent to about 100 grams of solid/spreadable Oivariini.

In lack of Finnish butter substitutes . . .

Lurpak butter and vegetable fat mix Outside Finland, one of the best and most commonly available substitutes for the Finnish Oivariini is the Danish butter and vegetable oil mix Lurpak Spreadable slightly salted butter (see the picture on right). Made by mixing non-hydrogenated, unsaturated rapeseed oil with butter, Lurpak Spreadable, like Oivariini, maintains the unadulterated flavour of the freshest, top-quality Scandinavian butters made with cultured cream.

Using good-quality butter, vegetable oil and water, you can also make your own soft-from-the-fridge, additive-free, lower-fat butter-vegetable oil spread.

Butter vs margarine  —  the everlasting battle

Various 'Valio' butter and vegetable fat mixes Despite of being partly constituted of vegetable oil and fat, the products listed above still maintain the natural, good taste of butter. Unfortunately, most other vegetable oil-based butter substitutes, especially margarines, usually have a repulsive taste, not even remotely resembling the taste of real, fresh butter, thus ruining any dish in which they are added.

In many countries where regular butter is often of inferior quality (eg Britain, Ireland and many poor/undeveloped countries), people do not even recognise the flavour difference between real butter and margarine, often choosing the latter for cooking  —  with disastrous results :-) Many falsely believe, even in Finland where regular butter is of an exceptionally high quality, that natural butter contains a multitude of additives like colouring agents, added vitamins, flavour enhancing ingredients or other artificial substances, commonly found in margarines.

Besides the bad taste and a load of additives, most margarines also contain hydrogenated vegetable oils and fats. Partial hydrogenation of vegetable oils produces trans fatty acids, shown in many recent studies to increase the risk of heart disease and/or cancer, among other things. Because of the health issues raised by the consuming of trans fats, the use of hydrogenated fats has recently been diminished and replaced by that of other types of artificially hardened fats having the benefits of hydrogenated fats but containing no trans fats  —  one type of which are interesterified fats, although their effect on human health remains to be further studied.

Nowadays, Finnish margarine manufacturers eagerly proclaim their products not to contain any trans fats thanks to the interesterification process they use, but always carefully avoid mentioning that the process has been in use only since the mid-1990s, and the trans fat-laden margarines consumed for decades before that were perhaps not quite as healthy as those eating them were made to believe.


Oil

When a recipe on this site calls for oil without specifying its type, you should use any good-quality vegetable oil without a strong characteristic taste, like sunflower seed oil, corn oil or turnip rape oil.

If a specific oil or fat type is required, like olive or extra-virgin olive oil, walnut oil, hazelnut oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, coconut butter, etc, it will be mentioned in the recipe.

Vegetable oils contain 100 % fat.

Sunflower seed oil
Sunflower seed oil
Peanut oil
Peanut oil
Walnut oil
Walnut oil
Olive oil
Olive oil
Extra-virgin olive oil
Extra-virgin olive oil
Toasted sesame oil
Toasted sesame oil

Turnip rape oil

Turnip rape oil Turnip rape oil is currently widely used in cooking in Finland. It is obtained from the oilseed plant turnip rape (Brassica rapa var. oleifera), being similar to canola oil, but not to regular rapeseed oil.

  • Regular rapeseed oil is obtained from the rapeseed plants rape (Brassica napus var. oleifera) and turnip rape (Brassica rapa var. oleifera), and is used to make industrial oils, lubricants and fuels. It contains large amounts of eicosenoic and erucic fatty acids, considered harmful for human and animal growth. High consumption of erucic acids has been associated with heart lesions in laboratory animals.
  • Canola oil is edible oil obtained from genetic variations of the rapeseed plants Brassica napus and Brassica rapa. Starting in the 1960s, Canadian plant breeders developed rapeseed plants with significantly reduced amounts of anti-nutritional components, like the erucic acid in the oil component of the seed (currently less than 1 %). To distinguish these new plant varieties from the regular rapeseed, a registered trademarked definition "canola" was given to them in the 1970s.

Turnip rape flowers The terms "canola oil" and "rapeseed oil" are often used interchangeably for all the (edible) oils obtained from the rape plant, the turnip rape plant and plants fitting the canola definition. Canola oil and the Finnish turnip rape oil are often misleadingly called just "rapeseed oil", but this does not mean the type of oil designed for industrial use.

In picture on right: turnip rape flowers.

All the edible rapeseed oils meet the Canadian canola standard for low erucic acid content. A difference between the North American and European rapeseed is that the European rapeseed is not genetically modified. The European Union has banned the cultivation (but not importation) of genetically manipulated canola crops, and it has not adopted the new name "canola" to be used for rapeseed oils.

Cold pressed turnip rape oil Both the turnip rape and canola oils are marketed as healthy choices in modern cooking. Recent studies have shown that including these oils as part of a nutritious diet may help to lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer.

In picture on right: Finnish cold pressed turnip rape oil.

The various turnip rapeseed oils, especially the cold pressed turnip rape seed oil developed in Finland, contain a very low level of saturated fat and are high in cholesterol-reducing vegetable sterols. They also contain a higher amount of polyunsaturated alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) compared to other vegetable oils, including olive oil. On the other hand, according to some studies, high consumption of polyunsaturated fats has been linked to the development of many diseases, like cancer, immunodeficiency, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, hypertension, etc.


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